The Internet Code, simplified
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has created the Internet Code (or the Code) so that customers of retail fixed Internet access services (Internet services) are better informed of their rights and responsibilities contained in their contracts with Internet service providers (service providers).
The Internet Code will
- make it easier for individual customers to obtain and understand the information in their Internet service contracts;
- establish consumer-friendly business practices for the Internet service industry where necessary;
- contribute to a dynamic Internet service market; and
- further the policy objectives out in paragraphs 7(a), (b), (f), and (h) of the Telecommunications Act.
The Code applies to large facilities-based Internet service providers, namely:
- Bell Canada (including Bell MTS, NorthernTel and Télébec)
The Code applies to all Internet services provided to individual customers by large facilities-based Internet service providers, in all provinces and territories, regardless of the status and business models of the service provider, whether purchased on a stand-alone basis or as part of a bundle, and whether purchased in person, online, or over the phone. All service providers to which the Code applies must comply with the Code.
The Internet Code comes into effect on 31 January 2020.
Implementation for new, renewed, amended, and existing contracts
The Internet Code applies in full to new, renewed, and amended contracts. It also applies to existing contracts, excluding provisions B.1., B.2., B.5., C.1., F.2., G.1., and G.2.
A customer who believes that their service provider is not adhering to the Code must first try to resolve the problem directly with the service provider. If the customer is not satisfied with the service provider’s response, they can contact the Commission for Complaints for Telecom-television Services Inc. (CCTS) as follows:
- P.O. Box 56067 Minto Place RO, Ottawa ON K1R 7Z1
- Toll-free phone
- [email protected]
- In interpreting the Code:
- if any part of the Code or a contract for Internet services is ambiguous, or if it is unclear how the terms of the Code or the contract are to be applied, then the Code and the contract must be interpreted in a manner that is favourable to the customer;
- a service provider may not require a customer to waive a right under the Code, contractually or otherwise, in order to receive the service provider’s services; and
- the Code and its provisions are to be interpreted purposively, by reference to their objectives.
- The CCTS may interpret the Code for the purpose of investigating complaints. Decisions rendered by the CCTS about specific complaints cannot be appealed to the CRTC. If, however, at any time service providers or other interested persons are unclear about the application or interpretation of the Code by the CCTS, they may seek guidance or interpretation from the CRTC through Part 1 applications. The CRTC reserves the right to issue guidelines of general application.
2. Retaining evidence
- A service provider must retain any information necessary to defend an allegation of a breach of the Internet Code.
1. Clear communication
- A service provider must communicate with customers in a way that is clear, easy to understand, timely, accurate, and accessible, and that uses plain language.
- A service provider must ensure that its written contracts and related documents, such as privacy policies and fair use policies, are written and communicated in a way that is clear, accessible, and easy for customers to read and understand.
- A service provider must ensure that the prices set out in offers and contracts are clear, including prices related to promotions, discounts, incentives, other time-limited offers, and bundles.
- A service provider must indicate whether these prices include taxes.
3. Unlimited services
- A service provider must not charge a customer any overage charge for services purchased on an unlimited basis.
- A service provider must not limit the use of a service purchased on an unlimited basis unless these limits are clearly explained in the fair use policy.
4. Unsolicited services
- A service provider must not charge for any device or service that the account holder or authorized user has not expressly purchased.
5. Clarity of offers
- A service provider must ensure that offers are clearly communicated before the customer consents to the offer, including during phone calls and door-to-door sales and in its promotional material.
- A service provider’s offer must include all key contract terms.
- A service provider must retain information demonstrating that all key contract terms were disclosed at the time of an offer. A service provider must provide this information to customers and to the CCTS upon request at no charge.
1. Provision of contract
- When a contract is agreed to, a service provider must give the customer a contract that meets all the conditions regarding the content of the contract as set out in provision B.5. A terms of service document is sufficient to meet this requirement only if it contains all of the information required by provision B.5.
- A service provider must give the customer a permanent copy of the contract and related documents, in the format of the customer’s choosing (electronic or paper) and at no charge, in the following circumstances:
- if the contract is agreed to in person, the service provider must give the contract and related documents to the customer immediately after the customer agrees to the contract; or
- if the contract is not agreed to in person (i.e. if it is agreed to over the phone, online, or otherwise at a distance), the service provider must,
- where the customer chooses to receive a paper copy of the contract, send the contract and related documents to the customer within 15 calendar days of the customer agreeing to the contract; or
- where the customer chooses to receive the contract electronically, send the contract and related documents to the customer no later than one business day after the contract was entered into.
2. Cancellation period when the permanent contract conflicts with the customer’s agreement
- If a service provider fails to provide the contract within the required time frame, or if the terms and conditions of the permanent copy of the contract conflict with the terms and conditions that the customer agreed to, the customer may, within 45 calendar days of the start of the contract, cancel the contract without paying an early cancellation fee or any other penalty.
3. When a customer requests a copy of their contract
- A service provider must also provide the customer with a permanent copy of the contract and related documents in the format of the customer’s choosing (electronic or paper), upon request and at no charge, at any time during the commitment period as follows:
- if the customer chooses to receive a paper copy, the service provider must send the document(s) to the customer within 15 calendar days; or
- if the customer requests to receive the document(s) electronically, the service provider must send the document(s) to the customer within no later than one business day.
4. Accessible formats
- A service provider must provide a customer with a copy of the contract and related documents in an accessible format for persons with disabilities upon request, at no charge, at any time during the commitment period.
5. Content of contracts
- Contracts must set out all the information listed below in a clear manner (items a-n):
Key contract terms and conditions
- the services included in the contract, such as data, that the customer agreed to upon entering into the contract and will receive for the duration of the contract, and any limits on the use of those services that could trigger overage charges or additional fees;
- the minimum monthly charge for services included in the contract;
if the contract includes a promotional price or another time-limited discount,
(a) the minimum monthly charge for services included in the contract during and after any time-limited discount or promotion; and
(b) when any time-limited discount or promotion will end;
if the Internet service is purchased as part of a bundle,
(a) the minimum monthly charge for services included in the contract during and after any price adjustment related to the bundle; and
(b) whether the minimum monthly charge for services included in the contract depends on a bundling arrangement with other services and, if so, a description of those other services;
- the commitment period, including the end date of the contract;
- if applicable
- the total installation fee and the conditions under which it must be paid;
- the rental or purchase price of non-subsidized equipment included with the contract;
- the total early cancellation fee;
- the amount by which the early cancellation fee will decrease each month; and
- the date on which the customer will no longer be subject to the early cancellation fee. The date may be presented as an outside limit (i.e. no later than date X).
- if a subsidized device is provided as part of the contract,
- the retail price of the device, which is the lesser of the manufacturer’s suggested retail price or the price set for the device when it is purchased from the service provider without a contract; and
- the amount the customer paid for the device.
Other aspects of the contract
- an explanation of all related documents, including privacy policies and fair use policies;
- all one-time costs, itemized separately;
- the trial period for the contract and conditions of use, including the associated time and usage limits;
- optional services selected by the customer at the time the contract is agreed to and the service rates;
- a policy for service outages and how rebates will be applied;
- whether the contract will be extended automatically on a month-to-month basis when it expires and, if so, starting on what date;
- whether amending a contract term or condition, including changing the contract or promotion, would
- change the price of the services;
- extend the customer’s commitment period; or
- change any other aspect of the contract, including changes to related bundles.
- if applicable, the amount of any security deposit and any applicable conditions, including the conditions for return of the deposit; and
- where customers can find information about
- rates for optional services, if applicable;
- rates for pay-per-use services, including overage fees, if applicable;
- the equipment manufacturer’s warranty, if applicable;
- tools to help customers manage their bills, including notifications on data usage and usage monitoring tools;
- how to contact the service provider’s customer service department;
- how to make a complaint about Internet services, including contact information for the CCTS; and
- the Internet Code.
- A service provider must provide a Critical Information Summary to a customer when it provides a permanent copy of the contract. This document summarizes the most important elements of the contract for the customer.
- The Critical Information Summary may be provided as a separate document from the written contract or prominently as the first pages of the written contract. In either case, the information provided in the Critical Information Summary does not replace or fulfill any requirements to provide the same or similar information within the actual written contract.
- A service provider must ensure that the Critical Information Summary contains all of the following:
- a complete description of all key contract terms and conditions;
- the total monthly charge, including rates for optional services selected by the customer at the time the contract is agreed to and, if applicable, any time-limited discount or promotion;
- information on all one-time charges and additional fees;
- information about the trial period, including
- descriptions of usage limits, duration, and conditions for the standard trial period; and
- descriptions of usage limits, duration, and conditions for the extended trial period for customers who self-identify as having a disability;
- a description of any limits imposed on services purchased on an unlimited basis; and
- information on how to complain about the service provider’s Internet services, including how to contact the service provider’s customer service department and the CCTS.
- A service provider must ensure that the Critical Information Summary
- accurately reflects the content of the written contract; and
- is clear and concise (does not exceed two pages), uses plain language, and is in an easily readable font.
- A service provider must provide a customer with a copy of the Critical Information Summary in an accessible format for persons with disabilities, upon request and at no charge, at any time during the commitment period.
1. Changes to key contract terms and conditions during the commitment period
- A service provider must not change the key contract terms and conditions of an Internet service contract without the account holder’s or authorized user’s informed and express consent.
- When a service provider notifies a customer that it intends to change a key contract term or condition, the account holder or authorized user may refuse the change.
- As an exception, a service provider may change a key contract term or condition without the account holder’s or authorized user’s express consent only if the change clearly benefits the customer by either
- reducing the rate for a single service; or
- increasing the customer’s usage allowance or speed for a single service for the same price.
Changes to key contract terms and conditions after the commitment period
- A service provider may change a key contract term if it provides the account holder with a notice that explains (a) the change, (b) when the change will take effect, and (c) the customer’s right to receive an updated contract that reflects this change upon request at no charge. The notice must be provided at least 60 calendar days before the change to the key contract term.
3. Changes to other contract terms and conditions or related documents
- If, during the commitment period, a service provider wishes to change other contract terms and conditions or the related documents, it must provide the account holder with at least 30 calendar days’ notice before making such changes.
- This notice must explain the change and when it will take effect.
4. Information that must be disclosed during offers to change existing contracts
- When a service provider offers a customer a change to their existing contract, including an upgrade, a discount, or a promotional offer, the service provider must clearly explain to the customer
- any resulting change(s) to the existing contract terms, including any change(s) to the price of the service or related bundles or to the commitment period; and
- whether or not the customer can return to the existing contract terms if they are not satisfied with the change(s).
1. Notification – Usage limit
- A service provider must notify a customer at least once when the customer reaches 75% of their usage limit, and again when they reach 90% of their usage limit, within a single monthly billing cycle.
- A service provider must notify a customer when they reach 100% of their usage limit within a single monthly billing cycle.
2. Data monitoring tools
- If a service provider applies overage fees, the service provider must offer tools, at no charge, to help a customer monitor and manage their data usage and any additional fees incurred during a monthly billing cycle. A service provider is responsible for ensuring that such tools are accessible to customers with disabilities.
- A service provider must offer plain-language information on the data usage associated with common online activities. Such information must be clear, accurate, accessible, and easy to understand.
3. Notification – Data overage charges
- A service provider must notify a customer who has incurred data overage charges during a billing cycle of where they can find information about (i) the account management tools the service provider offers, (ii) the data usage associated with common online activities, and (iii) alternative plans that may better suit the customer’s needs. Customers may opt out of these notifications at any time. Such notifications must be provided for each billing cycle in which a customer incurs data overage charges, unless the customer opts out of receiving such notifications.
1. Service calls, including visits to residences for installation and repairs
- A service provider must provide a customer with a time frame for when a service call to a residence will begin.
- Before any service call to a residence, a service provider must specify the potential charges associated with the service call, including any minimum charge, if applicable.
- Before any service call to a residence, a service provider must explain to a customer how both the service provider and the customer may cancel or reschedule the appointment, including any associated charges.
2. Service outages
- A service provider must explain in its contracts and related documents its policy for service outages and how rebates will be applied.
1. Early cancellation fees – General
- If a customer cancels a contract before the end of the commitment period, the service provider must not charge the customer any fee or penalty other than the early cancellation fee. This fee must be calculated in the manner set out below.
- When a subsidized device is provided as part of the contract,
- for fixed-term contracts,
- the early cancellation fee must not exceed the value of the device subsidy; and
- the early cancellation fee must be reduced by an equal amount each month, such that the early cancellation fee is reduced to $0 by the end of the lesser of 24 months or the total number of months in the contract term.
- for indeterminate contracts,
- the early cancellation fee must not exceed the value of the device subsidy; and
- the early cancellation fee must be reduced by an equal amount each month, over a maximum of 24 months, such that the early cancellation fee is reduced to $0 by the end of that period.
- for fixed-term contracts,
- When a subsidized device is not provided as part of the contract,
- for fixed-term contracts: the early cancellation fee must be set out in the contract and may be charged only for the lesser of 24 months or the total number of months in the contract term. The early cancellation fee must be reduced to $0 by the end of that period.
- for indeterminate contracts: a service provider must not charge an early cancellation fee.
- When calculating the early cancellation fee,
- the value of the device subsidy is the retail price of the device minus the amount that the customer paid for the device when the contract was agreed to;
- the retail price of the device is the lesser of the manufacturer’s suggested retail price or the price set for the device when it is purchased from the service provider without a contract; and
- a month that has partially elapsed at the time of cancellation is considered a month that has completely elapsed.
2. Trial period
- When a new customer agrees to a contract through which they are subject to an early cancellation fee, a service provider must offer the customer a trial period lasting a minimum of 15 calendar days to enable the customer to determine whether the service meets their needs.
- If a customer self-identifies as a person with a disability, the service provider must offer an extended trial period lasting a minimum of 30 calendar days to enable the customer to determine whether the service meets their needs.
- The trial period must start on the date on which service begins.
- The usage limits for the standard trial period must correspond to half the permitted monthly usage specified in the customer’s contract, whether the contract includes limited or unlimited monthly use. For customers with disabilities, the permitted usage amounts must be at least double the service provider’s usage limits for the standard trial period.
- During the trial period, customers may cancel their contract without penalty or early cancellation fees if they have
- used less than the permitted usage; and
- returned any equipment or device provided by the service provider, in near-new condition, including original packaging, if applicable.
3. Cancellation date
- A customer may cancel their contract at any time by notifying their service provider.
- A service provider must cancel service on the day requested by the customer or by another party acting on behalf of the customer.
4. Refunds for prepaid services not provided following cancellation
- A service provider must not charge for a service that is not, and cannot be, provided following cancellation.
- All service providers must provide refunds for Internet services following cancellation of such services when some or all of the monthly service fees are billed in advance. The refunds must be pro-rated, based on the number of days left in the last monthly billing cycle after cancellation.
5. Contract extension
- To ensure that customers are not disconnected at the end of the commitment period, a service provider may extend a contract, with the same rates, terms, and conditions, on a month-to-month basis.
- A service provider must notify a customer on a fixed-term contract, at least 90 calendar days before the end of their initial commitment period, whether or not the contract will be automatically extended. This notification must include
- the date on which the contract is set to expire;
- a statement informing the customer that as of that date, they can switch plans, change service providers, or cancel their service without penalty; and
- information explaining
- whether the contract will be automatically extended with the same rates, terms, and conditions, on a month-to-month basis; and
- if the contract is not being automatically extended, the proposed new minimum monthly charge for service going forward.
1. Requesting, reviewing, and returning a security deposit
- If a service provider requires a security deposit from a customer, the service provider must
- inform the customer of the reasons for requesting the deposit;
- keep a record of those reasons for as long as the service provider holds the deposit;
- specify in the written contract the conditions for the return of the deposit;
- review, at least once per year, the continued appropriateness of retaining the deposit; and
- return the deposit with interest to the customer, retaining only any amount owed by the customer, no more than 30 calendar days after
- the contract is terminated by either the customer or the service provider; or
- the service provider determines that the conditions for the return of the deposit have been met.
- A service provider must calculate interest on security deposits using the Bank of Canada’s overnight rate in effect at the time, plus at minimum 1%, on the basis of the actual number of days in a year, accruing on a monthly basis.
- A service provider may apply the security deposit toward any amount past due and may require customers to replenish the security deposit after such use in order to continue providing service.
1. When disconnection may occur
- If the grounds for disconnecting a customer are failure to pay, a service provider can disconnect a customer’s postpaid service only if the customer
- fails to pay an account that is past due, provided that it exceeds $50 and has been past due for more than two months;
- fails to provide or maintain a reasonable security deposit or alternative when requested to do so by the service provider; or
- agreed to a deferred payment plan with the service provider and fails to comply with the terms of this plan.
- A service provider cannot disconnect a customer’s service on the grounds of failure to pay if the customer has paid a security deposit and the security deposit covers the past due amount.
- Except with customer consent or in other exceptional circumstances, disconnection may occur only on weekdays between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. or on weekends between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., unless the weekday or weekend day precedes a statutory holiday, in which case disconnection may not occur after noon. The applicable time is that of the customer’s declared place of residence.
- If a service provider disconnects a customer in error,
- for customers not in rural or remote areas, it must restore service to the customer no later than one business day after they are made aware of the error;
- for customers in rural or remote areas, it must restore service to the customer as soon as possible and notify the customer of the reconnection date; and
- it must not impose reconnection charges.
2. Notice before disconnection
- If a service provider intends to disconnect a customer, it must notify the customer before disconnection, except in cases where
- action is necessary to protect the network from harm;
- the service provider has a reasonable suspicion that fraud is occurring or is likely to occur; or
- a pre-set spending limit is reached, such as for customers on credit-limited spending programs, in instances where the customer was previously made aware of this limit.
- In all other cases, before a disconnection, including the first instance of a suspension in a disconnection cycle, a service provider must give reasonable notice to the customer at least 14 calendar days before disconnection. The notice must contain the following information:
- the reason for disconnection and amount owing, if any;
- the scheduled disconnection date;
- the availability of deferred payment plans;
- the amount of the reconnection charge, if any; and
- contact information for a service provider representative with whom the disconnection can be discussed.
- A service provider must provide, at least 24 hours before disconnection, a second notice to advise a customer that their service will be disconnected, except if
- repeated attempts to contact the customer have failed;
- action is necessary to protect the network from harm; or
- the service provider has a reasonable suspicion that fraud is occurring or likely to occur.
- A service provider must notify a customer of the specific terms leading to further suspensions or disconnection should the customer not pay according to the terms in their promise-to-pay agreement.
- Should a customer fulfill the terms of their promise-to-pay agreement, the service provider must treat any future non-payment by the customer as the start of a new disconnection cycle.
3. Disputing the reasons for disconnection
- A service provider must not disconnect a customer’s service if
- the customer notifies the service provider on or before the scheduled disconnection date listed in the notice that they dispute the reasons for the disconnection;
- the customer pays the amount due for any undisputed portion of the charges; and
- the service provider does not have reasonable grounds to believe that the purpose of the dispute is to evade or delay payment.
- Accessible formats
- Accessible formats are an alternative to standard print so that the document is accessible for Canadians with disabilities, based on their individual needs. They include, but are not limited to Braille, plain text, and large font.
- Account holder
- A person who is responsible for payment under a contract.
- Authorized user
- A user who has been authorized by the account holder to consent to additional charges on the account or to changes to key contract terms and conditions.
- An offer of multiple communications services to a customer to incent that customer, financially or otherwise, to subscribe to more than one communications service. In many cases, changes to or removal of one of the underlying services may affect the prices or characteristics of the remaining services.
- Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC or the Commission)
- A public organization that regulates and supervises the Canadian broadcasting and telecommunications systems to ensure that Canadians have access to a world-class communication system.
- Commission for Complaints for Telecom-television Services Inc. (CCTS)
- An independent organization dedicated to working with customers and their communications service providers to resolve complaints relating to their communications services. The CCTS (i) responds to and resolves complaints from customers in order to ensure that the complaints are treated in a way that is consistent with the Internet Code and (ii) collects data on complaints related to the Internet Code. To learn more about the data collected by the CCTS, see the CCTS’s website.
- Commitment period
- The term or duration of the contract. For fixed-term contracts, the commitment period is the entire duration of the contract. For indeterminate contracts, the commitment period is the current month or billing cycle.
- Contracts: new, amended, renewed, existing, and written contracts
- A contract is a binding agreement between a service provider and a customer to provide Internet services. A new contract is a contract that is agreed to on or after the date on which the Internet Code comes into effect. An amended contract is a contract that is changed after the date on which the Internet Code comes into effect. A renewed contract is a contract that automatically renews under the same terms and conditions at the end of the commitment period. An existing contract is a contract that is agreed to before the date on which the Internet Code comes into effect. A written contract is a written instrument that expresses the content of the contract.
- Individuals subscribing to Internet services, including account holders and authorized users.
- The termination of Internet services by a service provider.
- Early cancellation fee
- A fee that may be applied when a customer cancels their service before the end of the initial commitment period.
- A device or combination of devices necessary to receive a service provided by a service provider or to optimize the reception of a service, such as a modem or router.
- Fair (or acceptable) use policy
- A policy that explains what is considered to be unacceptable use of the service provider’s Internet services and the consequences of unacceptable use (e.g. using the service to engage in an activity that constitutes a criminal offence). Violations of a fair or acceptable use policy may result in (i) disconnection or service suspension, or (ii) a modification of the services available to the customer.
- Fixed-term contracts
- Contracts that have a set duration (e.g. one or two years).
- Indeterminate contracts
- Indeterminate contracts do not have a set duration. They automatically renew each month.
- Internet services
- All retail fixed Internet access services, including cable, fibre, digital subscriber line (DSL), fixed wireless, and satellite services. Fixed Internet access services do not include mobile wireless data services.
- Key contract terms and conditions
- The elements of the contract that the customer agreed to upon entering into the contract and will receive for the duration of the contract, and that the service provider cannot change without the customer’s express consent. These are listed in provision B.5 of the Internet Code.
- Minimum monthly charge
- The minimum amount that customers will have to pay for Internet services each month if they do not use optional services or incur any additional fees or overage charges. This charge may be subject to taxes, as set out in the contract.
- Mobile wireless data services
- These services include, but are not limited to, data plans for smartphones and tablets as well as mobile Internet plans used with Internet hubs, sticks, keys, and MiFi or similar devices. The Wireless Code applies to contracts for mobile wireless data services.
- Optional services
- Services that a customer can choose to add to their Internet service plan, usually for an additional charge, which may include data add-ons, security services, parental control services, and extended warranties.
- Overage charge
- A charge for exceeding an established limit on the use of a service.
- Permanent copy
- An inalterable copy (e.g. a paper copy or PDF version) of the contract that is free of hyperlinks to content that can be changed by the service provider, as of the date the contract is agreed to or the date of the latest amendment.
- Plain language
- Plain language communication is clear and easy to understand for a public audience, including for the most vulnerable and inexperienced customer.
- A policy that explains how service providers will handle customers’ personal information.
- Promise-to-pay agreement
- An agreement that set outs a payment schedule for amounts owing by a customer whose financial situation does not enable them to meet the payment deadline on their bill.
- Promotions, discounts, incentives, and other time-limited offers
- Various incentives that service providers use to make their offers more appealing to customers, financially or otherwise. These incentives may be offered only for a specific period of time or may have conditions associated with them.
- Related documents
- Any documents referred to in the contract that affect the customer’s use of the service provider’s services. Related documents include, but are not limited to, privacy policies and fair use or acceptable use policies.
- Service provider
- A provider of retail fixed Internet access services.
- Suspension (of a customer’s service)
- A temporary halt in Internet service that can result from a lack of payment or reaching a set spending or usage limit. The customer’s account and contract remain in effect during service suspension.
- Unlimited services
- Services (e.g. unlimited data) that can be used on an unlimited basis for a fixed price.